New camera: Coronet Conway Synchronised

For some time now I’ve been wanting to get into medium format photography. I have the right developing stuff to process the films myself, but unfortunately no way of scanning the negatives without buying a flat-bed scanner. But my colleague Paul offered to scan 120 roll film if I processed it first. With this barrier removed, I decided to give it a go.

Many of the readily-available 120-format cameras are so-called “toy cameras” such as the Holga and Diana. I wasn’t interested in modern(ish) toy cameras, and instead looked for anything old and inexpensive.

Eventually I bought a Coronet Conway Synchronised: a cheap 1950s box camera, made in Birmingham. I was drawn to it because it came in its original box with manual, paperwork, and a parabolic flashgun.

Coronet Conway Synchronised

It’s extremely crude, with a fixed aperture and fixed shutter speed at approximately 1/30s (or bulb mode). The lens is fixed-focus from 9 feet to infinity, with a small lever to snap it into “close up” mode – 4 to 9 feet.

What this means is there’s no metering or manual control of any sort. The only control I have over exposure is the choice of film speed. There’s no guidance in the user manual on which film speed to use, so I’ve gone with a fast film – some Ilford HP5+ 400.

I mentioned this camera came with a flashgun, the Coro Flash. It takes bayonet-type single-use flash bulbs like the PF3N. These are almost impossible to come by these days, but fortunately I found that the PF1 with an adapter will fit. PF1 bulbs are somewhat easier to find on eBay, so I’ve ordered a box of 15 and will try my hand at dangerous indoor photography 🙂

Conway Synchronised with Coro Flash

I shot a roll of any old rubbish, just to test the camera and see if the film was a good match. Turns out the exposure was almost spot-on every time, in a variety of lighting situations, so I’m very pleased. Unfortunately, in my confusion in loading the film I didn’t line up the right set of numbers with the little window on the back of the camera.

The camera is supposed to be wound on 9cm after each photo: by following the numbers, I was winding it on 6cm. The photos are all overlapping. But it has probably worked out for the best. I’ve ended up with a long, blended patchwork panorama of what was otherwise a set of garbage test shots.

Like I said, I don’t have any way of scanning these photos and I’m not about to ask Paul to waste his  time scanning the results of my partially failed experiment. I found a sort of workaround, by attaching the film to my computer screens, bringing up a white page, taking photos on my DSLR, and stitching them together with Hugin. The photos and the stitching are pretty bad, but you get the idea.

How to scan 120 roll film

You can click this preview for a bigger version. As far as I can make out, from left to right, you can see:

  • Two waterfalls in Brandon Hill park
  • Two shots of Cabot Tower, also in Brandon Hill park
  • My friend Nathan on a bench
  • Cabot Tower again
  • Nathan again
  • A leafy landscape
  • A shot over University Hall at Stoke Bishop (with the frames of my screens through it)
  • A long-shutter picture of a car driving past my balcony at night
  • My friends around my table
  • A car in the car park
  • Hana in the car park
  • Two views from my balcony – one portrait, and one landscape
A roll of 120 format film

As you can see, it’s a “disaster” in terms of producing good photos, but I rather like the effect of a mixture of memories from throughout the week. The frames of my monitors doesn’t help, but I might give this technique another go, using my TV screen 😀

5 Comments

  1. February 28, 2011
    Reply

    Hi

    I was given a Conway Super Flash at the weekend. It looks to be in good working condition and is almost identical to yours.

    I’m going to try it out and I was wondering if you had any idea of what the aperture of the lens may be from your exposures. I’m guessing aroun F16?

    • Jonathan
      February 28, 2011
      Reply

      Hi Martin,

      I can’t remember where I got the figure from, but I have written down here that my Conway has a focal length of 110mm and a fixed aperture of f/18. I don’t know about the Super Flash, but as my Conway doesn’t have any scope for adjusting either the aperture or the shutter speed, exposure becomes kind of irrelevant. Using it outdoors in daylight and indoors with the flashgun I’ve had reasonably well-exposed results.

      Have fun!

  2. Martin Smith
    March 1, 2011
    Reply

    My Super Flash has no controls either, but at least know I know how much flash power is required and a starting poing for developing the negs.

    Many thanks for your help.

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